Here are the links to previous chapters in this series:
After a wonderful whirl-wind trip with the usual share of mishaps, some hilarious, others unnerving, we grabbed a taxi to the airport. We thought we were early and in fact, by Asian standards, we were.
So, imagine our dismay when we arrived at the Lufthansa seating area and saw at least several hundred people for what was supposed to be a 200-seater, through Frankfurt, to New York. Nevertheless, ever the optimists, we sat patiently until the the agent called for boarding. Or so we expected.
About an hour after our scheduled departure time (yes), a plane taxied past our window, way, way out on the tarmac somewhere. Could that be our transportation back to civilization, we wondered? It looked so tiny. No sooner had it come into clear view, than a rush of people stormed the door to the maintenance area and sped toward the aircraft, as if propelled by some subliminal message. Geoff and I exchanged puzzled glances and stayed obediently in our seats.
No, the agents didn’t announce boarding. No they didn’t restrain the crowd. No they didn’t rein them back in or broadcast a warning. Literally within five minutes, the plane was full. Wait, what? We have tickets! We have boarding passes! We have seat assignments! Geoffrey approached the agents’ station and got on a line of mostly Europeans who were buzzing among themselves in confusion that mirrored ours.
Then we saw our plane taxi toward what we assumed was the runway. And with that, it was gone.
We looked at each other in astonishment and then the panic set in. Ah! But, not to fear. This was Lufthansa, after all. Germans are nothing if not sticklers for law and order. We felt some relief when the agent announced — in German, which neither of us speak — what we gathered was the imminent arrival of another plane for the rest of us, who now numbered about 300. All around us people began sitting on the floor and opening cloth parcels containing — food, … ohhh … nooooooooooo. We noticed that they were largely Indians. OK, ok, ok. No worries, calm down, let’s just trust and await our new aircraft.
At long last we were ushered, wordlessly, in a line of weary and willing humanity down a long corridor to … wait for it … the Air India terminal! Our tickets, boarding passes and seat assignments, we were now made to understand somehow, were being transferred to another carrier. When the plane itself lumbered into view and shuddered to a stop out on the pavement about 100 yards from the window we were staring from, it was clear that this was part of AI’s backup fleet. There are no civil words to express the string of expletives that came out of my new husband’s mouth and that even the most parochial of Hindi speakers must have known were not encomiums to that machine.
After another hour of waiting, we were allowed to traipse across the asphalt, dodging potholes, and climb steep rickety open metal stairs to our seats, which bore no resemblance to the ones we had paid for. The plane did not stop in Germany, but made the entire 26 hour flight to New York — oh yes — in one long grueling marathon, with only a quick refueling touchdown. Guess whether the food and lavatories held up?
Our return to NYC was bittersweet. Geoffrey had been offered an amazing opportunity in San Francisco and I got a preliminary invitation to teach at Stanford. But, as luck would have it, at the last minute my mother-in-law lamented that she needed him nearby in Los Angeles because her younger boys were giving her problems and her executive husband was rarely around. So, dutifully, Geoffrey agreed to move back to LA, leaving me to fend for myself work-wise, to make his never satisfied family happy. He also had to look for a job and now both of us would be doing that with less then stellar track records.
We packed up my Mercedes, which though virtually a block long (or so it seems in hindsight today), was still too small for all the stuff I felt I couldn’t send in a moving van (which literally was a block long). As I looked at that truck, I realized that I was hauling around so much materialia, a virtual albatross, that I could never just pick up and move again. And that was decades ago! Among the occupants of my car, was my blind, elderly, female Cockatiel, Fulana. That is another long story, but suffice to say, driving across country with a large bird and cage would prove to be one of the great challenges of my life. How many nights we had to sneak her into the motel room or sleep in the car with her, I will leave you to imagine. The trip took almost two weeks and we got to stop along the way to admire parts of this country I had never seen like Missouri and New Mexico — both two of my favorite places now. The Ozarks and the night skies of Albuquerque are matchless anywhere else.
After what seemed like the longest ordeal of the century, we crawled down from Barstow into Los Angeles and arrived at my in-laws beach house, dusty and weary. I was nervous already, so intimidating were Emily (my MIL) and her retinue. One thing I learned living with wealthy, gregarious bi-coastal people like Geoff’s parents, was that they always had a crowd of people coming, going, staying, visiting or calling them out to events somewhere. There was never a quiet moment when they were in town. And, when they were at one of their other four homes, some of the hangers-on they accumulated would invite themselves to stay at the rambling multilevel beach-front home anyway. It was a circus. The night we arrived Heidi was there with her husband and children. As we came in the door, she brushed past me as if I were invisible, on her way out to a party. I was to discover that Heidi, territorial and insular, was feeling that I was what I now realize is her idea of an elite, Ivy League, snobbish, threatening East Coaster. Had I only understood that this was a cultural phenomenon of the fly-over Staters, I might not have taken it so personally.
That same night, barely had we caught our breaths, when Emily sent us out to the store as their favorite delivery service was unavailable, and she had invited people for dinner (not in our honor, mind you). Geoffrey thought he was more than clever by making a quick run to what was Stan’s Liquor, a place that carried the kinds of upscale provisions the coupon-clipping beach aristocracy in the South Bay liked to have on hand for the impromptu champagne-and-caviar fete. At Stan’s, as I was nervously tooling up and down the aisles, feeling like the frumpy slum cousin in an oversized boyfriend shirt and pinwale cords, I bumped into an exquisitely architected tower of giant imported plum tomato cans, the topmost of which promptly fell and hit my foot, smashing a sandal-nude toe.
Laid up for the remainder of the night with an eggplant throbbing at the end of my right foot, we were then treated to — oh yes, why not? — an earthquake. Geoffrey was on the other side of the room and he and his family observed my reaction to the enormous house swaying back and forth with considerable interest. Not rushing to reassure me where I was marooned, they simply went on with their conversation as if nothing was amiss. I was devastated. This was not the idyllic introduction to SoCal that I had envisioned. It was little comfort either that when I finally hobbled to the balcony, I was to be blinded by the sight of scantily clad Amazons, perched high atop roller blades, tanned like Fabio, zipping past rows of celebrating beach nobility, some of these goddesses with drinks in hand. I was crestfallen. Now I really was feeling like the buttoned up college professor, handicapped, exhausted to tears, cold-shouldered by my new “family”, and feeling 40, while only in my twenties.
My MIL, I thought at first to give her credit, planned a West Coast reception to announce to all their important friends that Geoffrey was married. As the heroine of DuMaurier’s Rebecca notes pitifully in one scene, “what a slap in the eye” I must have been. First off, I was not blonde and everyone in California is or tries to be. Secondly, I was not, err, how to put this delicately, top heavy. I could feel myself shrinking in stature with every day that passed that first month. We found a condo within walking distance of the family (ugh). Fulana was settled in. We had a balcony with a remote ocean view. We only fought over the placement of the furniture once. Geoffrey found a suitable job right away. Still, I cried every single night, after we returned from his parents’ house where we had to make a pilgrimage regularly so Geoff could “bond” again.
The day of the important party finally arrived. So did my things from NY and I pulled out a beautiful handmade dress I got at a trendy boutique on Madison Avenue. I wish I had kept it. It was of black polished cotton, with a shirred bodice, little delicate puffed sleeves, tiny buttons up the front, a flared out skirt with a tasteful ruffle at the hem. The material itself was stamped with tiny colored flowers. I loved it. I wore some strappy multicolored patent sandals I had bought in Florence, that picked up the colors in the dress and the black background. I added small diamond flower earrings and thought I looked perfect for a West Coast summer gathering.
My parents-in-law were well connected. My FIL was the genius behind an ultra successful investment firm with offices all over the world. He knew everyone that was anyone in Manhattan and Beverly Hills. So, they invited these people to our reception, held high atop Palos Verdes on a windy cliff overlooking the Pacific. Cocktails were timed to coincide with a glorious sunset. The food was all flawless, the tables glittered with gold and silver laid out elegantly on snow white linens. The flowers were flown in from Hawaii. It was all magical, except, of course, not a soul thought to ask me for any input at all or what I thought of the whole idea in the first place.
Over 250 people arrived in the usual gleaming black or white chariots of that day. I knew no one. Well, with the exception of two people: my mother-in-law’s maid’s niece and her maid’s daughter. The latter was hired to clean our modest starter apartment, a stone’s throw from the in-laws. Both of them eyed me warily with a fair amount of unvarnished jealousy.
Geoffrey knew everyone. There were heads of investment banks, politicians — including a former POTUS, who was on a Board with my father-in-law — lots of corporate CEOs, some chairmen of charities that Emily worked on, and a lot of Geoffrey’s family’s former neighbors and schoolmates. Including an ex-girlfriend of one brother. She and Geoff spent the night getting drunk and reminiscing. Since I don’t touch alcohol, I found little to console me.
An entire room was dedicated to the gifts people inevitably brought, even when told to refrain. A sleek van idled outside all night in anticipation of loading up the treasures and taking them somewhere (to the in-laws house, as it turned out, so Emily could make sure the proper thank yous were sent, I being a barbarian, apparently). I spent time glancing over the tables as they filled up and absently fingered the gift cards, with famous names that I recognized but who only knew me as “… and his bride”.
To make matters even worse, one of the two ladies that worked for my mother-in-law, a single mother about ten years older than I, wore a billowing white dress and tucked enormous roses in her very dark hair. All evening long, people congratulated her on her marriage to my new husband. Geoff’s family loved it and had quite a few laughs for years to come. It didn’t endear them to me, is all I have to say. And, Nuria, the white-clad Beth analogue, developed a haughty attitude toward me thereafter, turning her back dramatically or flouncing out of the room whenever we were in the same place. Did I hear you say “galling”?
As I write and think about this fitting final chapter to the Un-y-moon saga I have shared here by installment, it strikes me as an almost sad and angry tale. Somehow, we overcame all this and managed to eke out our own lives, especially by moving away from the force of this powerful galaxy in which we were supposed to orbit. My MIL slowly mellowed, never quite understanding or liking me, you understand, but coming to spend time with me without trying to dominate and criticize my very different approach to womanhood. Like many traditional wives, brought up in sheltered families where men provided everything except respect and emotional support, the women in my husband’s family knew no other type of role and were offended by what they saw as my superiority complex. Honestly, I never felt superior, just independent. I was an adult, an educated and I thought liberated East Coast professional. I didn’t see myself in the same light that Heidi, Geoffrey’s sister did. Heidi married a rich, strong man, whose money and stature in his own sphere enabled my SIL to glide carefreely from one jeweled abode to another. She took my candid opinions and frank comments to Geoffrey as an indicator that I thought I was better than she was and that has caused her to resent and reject me to this very day. I just no longer care.
Things went on like this for some years, no matter how I tried to change the atmosphere. Little slights that hurt and were meant to put me in my place were constant. Such as the time I asked for an apron to use while in the kitchen helping to prepare dinner and Emily turned to Heidi with a bemused smile and said, “I never needed an apron. Did you?” To which my SIL slowly shook her head in mock disgust. I wanted to tell them it was to keep the food prep area sanitary, not because I was such a clod. But, I was properly cowed. Or the time Emily gave everyone in a large group a dish to prepare, then looked at me quizzically and said, “Beth, I think you can handle the lettuce, can’t you?”, as if I had been raised by wolves. Or the many meals that were anchored by beef or lamb and only left me, the lone vegetarian at that juncture, with a roll and a potato, no apologies made.
You could argue that Geoff fell down on his responsibility to welcome me into his overwhelming family and lay down rules for them to treat me at least with some courtesy and politesse, but he was spoiled. He was used to his mother doting on him, her handsomest son, the one with the most promise in her mind. The one to take the place of her largely absentee spouse. It took years of arguments for my husband to see what was going on and reluctantly cut those apronless strings.
The rest of this blog has posts scattered throughout that shed light on the times and events that have followed. As we both turn 50 shortly (yikes!), we have come to a place of equilibrium. Heidi lost her husband and is now less of a presence in our lives. Emily is experiencing cognitive decline. My father-in-law died suddenly years ago. The other brothers are around but consumed with families of their own. And most importantly, we live nowhere near any of them and that has been a true lifesaver.
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I want to dedicate this “finale” post to the memory of my dear blogging friend, Susan Irene Fox, who passed away suddenly last August. She loved the Un-y-moon series, appreciated all my ironies and jokes and was one of my biggest supporters. As she did with so many people, she offered me her warm, kind, loving advice, and helped me to see a way to accept the adversities that come even into the most fortunate of lives, like mine. God Bless you, Susan. How I miss you and think of you often.
And to my loyal friend Bob, with whom I have had such lively discussions on all sorts of things, including places we share, as in New Jersey, New York and Southern California: You are the best, Bob.
Images: Chez BeBe assets and Creative Commons
My niece is marrying a billionaire.
Well, I should say, a billionaire’s son. Now, mind you, I have hobnobbed with my share of the international cognoscenti from time to time and Geoffrey’s family are well known and affluent, but this is warp-speed level in another universe.
Her mother, my sister-in-law Vanessa, groomed this kid for exactly this outcome by sending her to all the right places to meet kids whose backyard was the globe. And, she’s a beautiful girl. An actress. So, maybe none of this should be a surprise. Most importantly, her future husband (both of them are the same age, they met in college) seems to be a really great person. He’s an actor too. Of course.
Now, as riveting as I am sure all this is to everyone — this all turns into another mammoth undertaking. One cannot simply throw a few rags into a bag and go, right? After the shock and awe of the announcement at a family party last month, and recovering my eyesight after glancing at the ring, I suddenly realized that I not only have to get on a plane and fly to this destination wedding, but I have to have four days worth of outfits appropriate for that crowd, to boot. Yikes.
Luckily, Deanna and I decided we would both go. Geoffrey cannot tear himself away from work and doesn’t want to spend four days doing “silly” wedding things. Al doesn’t want to go, period. So, we are going to make it a girls event.
So, of course I went online, straight to Bergdorf’s and got three crazy overpriced outfits, luckily, on sale. I have hundreds of accessories of every kind, so I justified the cost of those outfits by thinking I could break out some of my low-tick shrugs and bags, etc.
Then Van dropped the other Choo: we are all to wear white to the wedding! Wait, what?? Noooooooooo… Yup, another trip online, this time though, I was so thoroughly chastened that I headed to Nordstroms and got my ecru evening-appropriate dress there. Now I am lousy with wedding guest duds, so I guess I will have to find other weddings to crash (and I usually avoid them like the plague).
For a very brief moment of insanity, Deanna and I considered saving ourselves a ton of hassle and skipping it.
Then we came to our senses. When would either of us ever-ever-ever get to go to four days of parties with that crowd? Would you be surprised if I told you Harry and Meghan might be attending? Am I sounding groupy-esque enough now?
It takes a lot for me to be star-struck. Growing up in NYC, and having celebrities in our neighborhood, passing them on the street without a second look, I didn’t think any of these people could possibly impress me. But my niece’s future family are just fascinating, pure and simple. I want to see what dollar-genius looks like up close and personal, LOL.
Now, of course, I am setting myself up for either being overwhelmed or disappointed. We shall see. Geoffrey just sneers at my excitement and (probably rightfully) concluded it’s merely an excuse to get dressed up, since he goes out of his way to do the opposite.
Uh, yeah! Deanna and I are going to pull out all the stops, and at the very least, have fun showing off our glam-girl sides. Something we never get to do in LA (suppose we are not hanging with the cool crowd here).
OK, enough about that. This is Banker’s Hill in San Diego. Right at the edge of Downtown, these are homes built by financiers in the early 20th century. The whole neighborhood is filled with vintage mansions, immaculately kept and updated. Most have views over the city to the water, just to the west of this enclave. The properties are astronomical but this is the place I am determined to find a hut when we make our permanent investment of a home in the area.
For now, we are still enjoying the houses we have.
Another nice aspect of the upcoming bash abroad is I will be able to share some awesome pictures of the surrounding area. I doubt we will be allowed to bring cameras to the wedding events, so my cell phone will have to do. More on that when the time comes. Meanwhile, I have to get all my other obligations out of the way so I can relax and look forward to whatever my brilliant SIL Vanessa came up with (although she assured me the groom’s parents’ staff is taking care of all the usual arrangements. Leave it to Van to have fallen into that piece of luck!).
Anyone familiar with this blog already knows what my wedding was like (hint: Un-y-mooners posts), hee hee.
Stay tuned and thank you for putting up with me as I pre-drool, copiously.
Images: Chez BeBe assets/Banker’s Hill, San Diego
Mexico has been in the news repeatedly for the past two years, and we all know why. A deranged toddler averred that Mexico has not been sending their best. Really? Has this clown ever been there? Has he been in the Southwestern United States much?
One thing I appreciate about being in Southern California, and having a second home close to the border now, is my proximity to all things Latin American, without any of the drawbacks of living there.
I have lived south of the border and while I enjoyed the cultural enrichment, it isn’t easy for a pampered American to live abroad anywhere, including in our own hemisphere, no matter how sophisticated the country.
Whenever we want to, we can drive a few minutes to Olvera Street in Downtown LA or, when in San Diego, hit Old Town.
Since I have been in Mexico half a dozen times, ranging from Puerto Vallarta, to Mexico City, to Tijuana, I can say with confidence, Old Town is the same thing — almost.
We get the benefit of the unique and delicious food, the cheerful, catchy music, the colorful art, and the fact that without Mexico and Puerto Rico, most Americans could only speak English, and that, just barely.
Don’t think for a minute you can learn another language with Rosetta or Babbel.
There is only one way, either you are raised in a multilingual household by native speakers from other countries, or you immerse yourself in another culture without the benefit of falling back on English.
Where else would our English heritage have learned to add hot peppers to our bland diet?
Who do you think taught us about chili and cheese fries?
How else would we have had the good fortune to travel close-by to resorts that cost a small fraction of those in Europe or Hawaii?
Even the Caribbean is prohibitive. Not Mexico.
Would we have the beautiful architecture of all the Mission towns in the sun belt without the early Church fathers like Padre Junipero Serra?
And, Snow Birds who can no longer afford Miami or San Diego, can live like royalty over the southern border.
As you know, if you have been in my community for the last five years, I am no fan of hot weather, so when I choose to travel, it is always north.
In fact, we just got back from a wonderful trip to San Francisco. But I would be unfair if I were not to acknowledge the priceless contribution of South America to our country.
It needs to be recalled, that the people who come here want to bring all these good things to us in return for a chance to prove how wonderful they can be.
These are not lazy, untalented, unskilled people, nor criminals. These are hardworking ambassadors that contribute to our society in manifold ways. Let’s not forget it, or the words on the Statue of Liberty.
Images: Chez BeBe assets/Old Town, San Diego. Click on each photo to view it large.
Can you believe it’s December?
I have been on such a marathon with my certificate classes, work, trips back and forth to our place in San Diego and the other householdy things I do in Valencia, that I have had almost no time to write on this blog.
Let me first say, what better time of year to introduce Little Italy on the water at the top of Downtown San Diego, than the holidays.
This old and venerated neighborhood — still hanging in there when many similar places have gone under, victims of “modernization” in other cities — is alive and hopping all hours of the day and night, all times of year.
But, especially in autumn and winter.
I had Kevin and Anna in tow when we made a shopping run to Little Italy recently. I still managed to get a few shots that could make up a series and ended up with over 150 pictures. Here are some of them.
Little Italy is colorful, as you can see. There is a misty haze in the air no matter the weather, being so close to the Pacific — evident in this set, too.
That gave me the ability to show the bright colors that characterize this enclave, yet with some softness imparted by the moisture. It is never hot or cold, just pleasant all year long.
But that is a major feature of San Diego in general. It is truly mediterranean and likely one attraction for Italian immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The similar neighborhood is long gone from Los Angeles.
One legacy of all this is the staggering number of grocery stores and restaurants, trattorias and cafes that still inhabit the area. And, pastry shops are also unique to this little part of town.
Urban hipsters are moving in in droves. Some are able to rent the vintage wooden houses that still stand.
Others are snapping up very small but very luxurious condos with views that developers have used to attract people to purchase in this place what would buy a villa elsewhere.
You don’t want to know the prices.
But, I have figured out that for a 1000 square foot apartment with three tiny bedrooms and two tiny bathrooms, buyers are grateful to pay almost a cool million dollars.
Now, as to blogging. I have to admit, as much as I love coming here to discuss things that you and I care about, it is hard to be chatty while this catastrophe unfolds in front of us.
Those of you who voted for this deranged toddler/con-man should admit to yourselves it was a mistake. Those of you who abstained because you got it into your heads that Hillary was just as bad, you are just as culpable for raining all this down on us. Geoff and I knew we would get exactly this, just not the degree of depravity.
But, I won’t dwell on it. Like many of us, I am riding it out and hopeful that the Democrats pull their collective heads out of the sand and get the majority back so we can save this country from going any farther down this Orwellian neo-fascist road.
I don’t care who we put up for POTUS, that person had better have experience and fortitude because it is going to be an ugly fight.
That said, I would love you to comment about anything (not necessarily the politics, of course!) but you don’t have to. We are a community and I know you are here and we have each other’s backs.
Hugs to you all! Belated Happy Thanksgiving to my US friends. And Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukkah and Happy Holidays to everyone, as well.
Hoping to get back here in January — starting another certification class but I will post as soon as I can.
“Sogno divino” is my play on words. It can mean three or four things in Italian. It is also the clever name of a wine shop in Little Italy.
Images: Chez Bebe Assets/Little Italy, Downtown, San Diego
Now for something completely different. (Click on the pictures to view them large.)
As I mentioned in my Flickr series featuring these pictures, Geoffrey woke up one day after Christmas and announced it was time to get two new vehicles. Finally! After 15 years. I was really looking forward to it, even though we buy cars to last. I always get either a Mercedes or a Volvo. At one point I tried Mitsubishi Monteros — loved them and then for a couple of years drove a Chrysler Town & Country minivan — liked it a lot. But for longevity and safety, I am a Volvo fan.
So, I had been eyeing an XC90 SUV for a few years and didn’t even have to think twice. I ran right out and found one I loved, with sparkling dark gray metallic, just like my older one. Done and done!
Geoffrey was a different story. We already had, between us, five vehicles. He had two trucks and a car, I had two cars: my vintage Mercedes totally maintained and restored and my 2002 Volvo sedan. Both in the same silver grey. Geoffrey had his two trucks, one with an extended bed (are you sleepy yet?) and his black 2002 Volvo station wagon.
Naturally, I thought he was going to get a sedan. But no, he decided he simply had to have another truck. One that he could take to all the fancy clients when he needed to look professional and ready to work, but also upscale and sophisticated. Ugh. How does that work? Another truck? And, where would be put it?
We have three garages at our house. One of them has my Merc, one has his Volvo, and the other one is full of junk. We can squeeze three vehicles in the driveway and he keeps one truck in front of the house on our street and another one at his building in Downtown LA. Now we would have my new XC90 and his truck? We can’t hog the street, so I was really getting upset.
Also, I don’t want to drive around in another ole truck when he is driving. What’s the fun of new wheels then? I wanted something really snazzy and snappy and cool. Not a clunky truck.
So, the only resolution was to let me pick it out. Aha!!! Dangerous.
These pictures reflect my ideas as I let my imagination do the shopping.
I know, right?
Wait for it — right down at the bottom is the one we finally chose. We could agree on it because it has a regular bed and a totally tricked out luxurious “cab”.
OK, so it’s not a Mercedes, but I scored a victory by getting one that matches my car and can fit, amazingly enough, both in the driveway and in front of our house (with his other truck sent packing to his building to join the first one).
Got all that? Anyway, that’s one of the many things taking up our time as the summer draws to a close.
Thought you might enjoy seeing these “confections” that sprang full grown from my head.
Images: Chez BeBe assets/Santa Clarita, California